This collection of 78 documents in Chinese and Nom characters (Sino-Nom) was carved on cliffs and caves, with variety in content and literary genres, created by kings and mandarins of the Nguyen Dynasty, as well as venerable monks and intellectuals, dating from the first half of the 17th century to the 20th century. They store the “memories” of the economic, cultural, political and social contacts between Vietnam and other countries on the maritime route across the region as well as the role of Vietnamese women in international marriages in the 17th century.
This nominated collection presents a remarkable snapshot of a small village developing into a cultural center in Vietnam and its contribution to society. The number of royal edicts and administrative documents conferred upon successful people from this village is quite impressive. This documentary heritage provides a valuable source to study the deeply-rooted common tradition of emphasising self-cultivation and family education in Asian countries of the Sino Sphere. They are also valuable sources about the adoption and practice of China’s Civil Service Recruitment Examination system in Vietnam and its impact on education, cultural development and the life of the grassroots.
The National training workshop on “Awareness raising on UNESCO Memory of the World Program” organized by Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO in cooperation with People’s Committee of Bac Giang province opened this morning, September 12, 2019, at Bac Giang city.
Attending the workshop were Mr. Le Hoai Trung, Member of Central Party Committee, Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO; Mr. Michael Croft, UNESCO Head of Office in Vietnam, PhD. Vu Thi Minh Huong, Vice Chairperson of UNESCO Memory of the World Committee of Asia-Pacific (MOWCAP), Mr. Andrew Henderson, MOWCAP Secretary General, Ms. Helen Jarvis, Acting Chairman of the Sub-Committee for Registration of Documents MOWCAP, Mr. Le Anh Duong, Vice Chairman of Bac Giang People’s Committee and 130 representatives from museums, archives and libraries from Bac Giang province and across Vietnam.
The seminar will be run from September 12-13 2019, and will include a site visit to the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda woodblock collection, inscribed on the MOWCAP register in 2012: https://mowcaparchives.org/items/show/94
The Envoy Ship Journeys to China (皇華使程圖 – literally translated as Maps of the Itinerary of the Envoy’s Journey to China, or Hoàng hoa sứ trình đồ in Vietnamese), is a book that contains various pictures and abundant and valuable information on the itinerary of missions of Vietnamese ambassadors and envoys in the 18th century. It was compiled, edited and annotated by Nguyễn Huy Oánh (1713-1789) from 1765 to 1768, making use of the documents handed down by many previous generations of envoys, and to which he also added details from his own mission that took place in 1766 and 1767.
The inscription is the only restored handwritten and painted duplicate after the original book by Mr. Nguyen Huy Trien (1852-1909) written and painted in February 1887 in the village Truong Luu in Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province. The original was lost. This is a document of considerable significance, providing information pertaining to the Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic relationship and cultural communication as well as Vietnamese understanding on China in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The Vietnamese journeys have been verified by the First Historical Archives of China as having taken place, showing that the materials, particularly the detailed maps, are authentic and rare.
The Royal Literature on Hue Royal Architecture consists of 2,679 verses and picture panels located in thirteen buildings in the Royal City in Hue, Vietnam. The buildings were constructed from 1802 to 1945 and the verses were chosen from the works of the Nguyen emperors at the time each building was constructed. They are arranged in two configurations, either with one verse panel and one picture panel side by side, or one character panel and one picture side by side. The picture panel is decorative and not an illustration of the verse panel beside it.
The verses cover the many changes in Vietnam during the time they were composed. Topics covered include independence, sovereignty, Confucian teachings, the Nguyen emperors, international relations, ancestors’ merits, weather, harvests and the beauty of Vietnam. The To Temple has 685 verses, which is the most of any of the structures, and the Noon Gate has the least, with 8 verses.
Most of the royal literature is carved on enamel, concrete and iron wood and is set on longitudinal and horizontal framed boards. The script is written on these hard materials by engraving, encrusting, enamelling or covering in bas-relief and so is higher or lower than the surface on which it is carved. The number of words and lines in the poems vary and use succinct language to express important ideas. Some of the panels have been lost because of war and the climate. In 1993 Hue Monuments Complex was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The system of Confucian education and examinations expanded from the royal capital city to villages and included both public and private schools. It was in this context that the Nguyen Huy family founded the Phuc Giang private school in the mid-18th century. The woodblocks were derived from books written by members of the Nguyen Huy family and were carved from 1758 to 1788 as part of the family’s education and cultural activities. Books printed from the woodblocks were used for educational purposes throughout Vietnam and at the school until 1919 The essence of Confucian culture and education in the wider region, as well as in Vietnam, is captured in the content of the woodblocks. They testify to the influence of Chinese texts which have been supplemented with references from Vietnamese history and a specific Vietnamese focus has been given to some Confucian ideas of the time. They contain information on many topics including history, politics, society, ideology, culture, external relations, and the adoption and development of Confucianism in Vietnam.
They also preserve the handwritings, seals and insignia of the Nguyen Huy family, many of whom were appointed to prestigious positions. The 379 woodblocks are engraved on wood from the Thi tree (Decandrous Persimmon) in classical Chinese characters and use refined calligraphy styles.
They also use varied design styles and follow the standards of ancient books from countries of similar socio-cultural backgrounds in East Asia. The set is not complete as some have been lost or damaged due to war and the climate. It is rare to find woodblocks of such significance preserved by a family.
Nguyen dynasty’s Imperial records are administrative records of the Nguyen dynasty, the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam which existed from 1802 to 1945. The collection was created during the Nguyen dynasty as part of its state management activity. It includes records created by grass-root to central organizations in its administrative system submitted to the Emperors for approval, records created by the Emperors, diplomatic notes and literature works composed by the royal family.
Records the names and related information of doctoral laureates who passed the 82 royal examinations over this period and formed the core of Vietnam’s civil service.
The 82 stone steles which are preserved at Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam historical site record names of the laureates of Royal Examinations of Le and Mac Dynasties were erected between 1484 and 1780 to commemorate the Royal examinations held between 1442 and 1779. Each inscription contains details such as the date, the names and official posts of the inscription compilers, revisers, calligraphers, and engravers. Steles of each historic period are distinct from the others through features such as designs, decorative patterns, tortoise-shaped bases, and the type of Chinese characters used for their inscriptions preserve the stele’s originality and prevent attempts to produce replicas. The steles vividly document the 300 years’ history of training and recruiting talented individuals in Viet Nam under the Le and Mac dynasties, as well as similar practices outside of Viet Nam
Over 3,000 woodblocks, engraved from 1871 to 1932, containing Buddhist sutras and other documents of the Truc Lam Zen sect in the Nôm script. This distinctly Vietnamese Buddhist tradition has spread to many countries.